Perspectives: Passion vs wisdom, why intemperate minds cannot be free

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — Ever notice how often passion and wisdom seem to be at odds? We would be well served to remember how to distinguish between them.

Passion can be understood as a strong, barely controlled emotion. It is what fuels most activism and is easily recognized by the obsessive fervency with which it calls for immediate gratification.

Think about it. When is the last time you heard of someone committing a “crime of wisdom”?

Wisdom, on the other hand, represents experience and knowledge that remains true in any time or place. Unlike popular knowledge, which can become obsolete over time, wisdom is based in sound judgment that has stood the test of time.

While passion can be a positive force, when properly tempered with wisdom, it is a poor basis for making important decisions. This is true on the personal level as well as the societal level.

Nowhere is this more clear than in what passes for public discourse today, where impassioned demands are outpacing wisdom in a rush to deal with society’s problems. The problem with this approach is that it sets the stage for serious unintended consequences that may not be immediately apparent.

Passion childishly urges us to follow the path of least resistance, with little regard for what lies beyond the moment. It arrogantly rejects the hard-won wisdom of billions of mature minds, spanning thousands of years of human history.

Passion makes us more susceptible to an ethically compromised press and to the promises of power-seeking politicians. It encourages us to pass judgment on people we’ve never met and to condemn ideas we don’t understand.

Unbridled passion has provided the ideological fuel for the most enslaving and bloodthirsty movements to have ever afflicted mankind. It is the breeding ground for intemperate minds.

Look no further than our daily headlines to see what out-of-control passion looks like in action.

Fortunately, the combined wisdom of humanity that could provide clear guidance to us in times of crisis is still available to anyone who is willing to seek it. It may not be fashionable, but it remains perfectly relevant.

For example, weigh the current pleas for government to assume greater adversarial power over the people against the words of British statesman Edmund Burke:

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves…It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

For a more contemporary example, consider the historical insights that former 9th District Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski offered when he wrote:

The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed—where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

Where is this level of dispassionate introspection to be found in the current debate over firearms ownership?

It’s not in the profane blathering of a media darling. It’s not in the legalistic sophistry of a retired Supreme Court justice. Even the most provocative memes fail to provide the illumination of authentic wisdom.

A passion-driven discourse on firearms requires that we tolerate a level of willful ignorance that we would never suffer in regards to any other topic. Unpopular truth and nuance are expected to take a backseat to ideology-driven emotion.

This is true in other areas of life as well.

It’s a trait of human nature for the new kids to seek to reinvent the wheel in every generation. This isn’t always a bad thing in that we may always garner wisdom from our own mistakes.

The downside of such an approach is that there is a great deal we could learn from the successes and failures of previous generations. To casually dismiss their contributions as irrelevant is something Fred Reed describes as akin to, “monkeys throwing books out of a window.”

Passion, when tempered by wisdom and combined with persuasion, can be productive and inspiring.

When it’s weaponized and merged with government force, it becomes a tool of endless malfeasance.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • comments April 2, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    This was a good read. People should know that there are extremely powerful and wealthy people that cook up agendas like a massive gun grab in secretive little backroom gatherings, and the last thing on these people’s minds is “protecting teens and schoolchildren from gun violence”. Their sole agenda is too acquire more power and control over the lives of others. There are groups that really would like to reduce gun violence, but it’s the sinister ones with enough money and sway to implement their agendas, or at least to try. That said, there really does need to be some sort of proactive and common sense measures established to attempt to ameliorate gun violence in this country, and that most def includes massacres by loons and terrorists. As far as what those measures need to be, no one has put forth anything I’ve seen that I’d call a great plan.

    As a sidenote: How about Ron Thompson’s huge pipe. Is this thing a crime of passion and greed, or is there a slice of wisdom mixed in there somewhere? I really don’t know for certain, but I don’t trust them… at all.

  • jaltair April 2, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    Well stated. I’ve said before there should be more emphasis in civics, ammendments as well as the Constitution in high school. The senior year would be a good time.

  • KarenS April 3, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Again, Bryan Hyde continues the fear-mongering rhetoric about gun safety. His not so subtle dig at the Parkland students by calling this younger generation “monkeys”, parrots the continued right-wing attacks against these articulate and well-spoken kids.

    I was impressed by what one Republican said recently about Congress. He said that many in Congress have fired an AR-15 and heard the loud sound that it makes but doubted that anyone in Congress was ever on the receiving end of that loud sound as the gunman fired those shots and killed their classmates as they fled. Brian Hyde’s dismissiveness of the passion of these students is really quite sad.

    • comments April 3, 2018 at 11:15 am

      articulate and well-spoken? Did you watch the video the little snot?

      • KarenS April 3, 2018 at 1:51 pm

        I’ve watched more than a dozen interviews with these students and they are articulate and well-spoken. Or did you mean the comments made by Ted Nugent? Or Alex Jones? Or maybe the condescending comments by Laura Ingraham?

        • comments April 3, 2018 at 6:30 pm

          Your standards are not very high if you think these naive teenies are articulate and well-spoken. They parrot a lot of ultra-leftist propaganda they’ve absorbed, I know that. It’s good that policy decisions are not decided by naive teenage children.

  • bikeandfish April 4, 2018 at 9:19 am

    I think Hyde just slipped up and revealed that he is trolling this forum as an anonymous user.

    • comments April 4, 2018 at 12:47 pm

      who is the suspect, bike? jaltair?

      • bikeandfish April 4, 2018 at 2:12 pm

        Not jaltair. Alot more “shadowy” than that if my opinion is true. Could be wrong but there have been several cookie crumbs over the last few months to lead me to lead me to believe he is trolling this site and others under an alias. Will likely never know for sure.

        • comments April 4, 2018 at 4:18 pm

          I know that Hyde reads a lot of comments on the political columns as it has shown thru in things he’s written, but I never figured him for a troll. You believe Hyde is John?

          • bikeandfish April 4, 2018 at 8:38 pm

            Definitely not John. I wouldn’t dare insult Hyde with that comparison. Hyde fear mongers and stoops to lazy rhetoric but he isn’t a hateful troll. I think he is using more of a sock puppet approach, if my conclusion is correct. It might not be but there are some uncanny similarities that seem more suspect than pure happenstance.

            I have left a clue about the anonymous account I think he may be using.

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